Tesla solar roof: frequently asked questions

Updated

tesla solar roof on a suburban home
While the Tesla solar roof is marketed as a way for homeowners to reap the benefits of solar without sacrificing the look of their home, it is still a bit of a mystery. Image source: Electrek

The Tesla solar roof has mystified homeowners for years now. Since its release in 2016, Tesla has made multiple changes to the product - from its looks, to its cost - and pretty much everything in between. Plus, with Tesla CEO and now Time Magazine’s Person of the Year Elon Musk's endless unfulfilled promises about it on Twitter, it’s really hard to keep up. 

But don’t worry, we’ve sorted through everything there is about the Tesla solar roof to answer some of the most commonly asked questions and help you figure out if this particular solar solution makes sense for you. 

Tesla solar roof FAQ

    1. What is the Tesla solar roof and how does it work?

    The Tesla solar roof combines traditional shingles and the functionality of solar panels into one product so homeowners don’t have to worry about sacrificing the look of their home in order to install solar. 

    So when you install the solar roof, you aren’t just installing something on your roof that will produce electricity (a la traditional solar panels), you are installing an entirely new roof that’s made up of two kinds of Tesla-branded shingles: active shingles and inactive shingles.

    active shingles and inactive shingles for tesla solar roof

    Solar electricity is produced by the active shingles. They contain solar cells, like the ones found in traditional panels do (you can think of the active shingles as really small solar panels). The rest of the roof is covered by inactive shingles that do not generate electricity. Instead, they act just like regular shingles and protect your roof. They look just like the active shingles, so you can't tell that there's any solar on your roof. 

    2. How much does the Tesla solar roof cost?

    Typically, a Tesla solar roof will cost between $35,000 and $70,000 to install. However, the price you’ll actually pay for a solar roof installation varies, depending on a number of factors, including the size and complexity of your roof, the location in which you live, and how much energy you use. 

    A conventional solar panel system typically costs somewhere around $15,000 to $20,000, depending on the system size. While this is much cheaper, you have to keep in mind that the Tesla solar roof does include the cost of getting a new roof

    If you want to get a more in-depth look at what goes into the cost of a solar roof and how it compares to a traditional solar installation, take a look at our full breakdown here

    To find out how much installing a traditional solar panel system will cost for your specific home, check out our solar panel calculator

    3. Does the Tesla solar roof qualify for solar incentives?

    Yes, the Tesla solar roof does qualify for solar incentives like the 26% federal solar tax credit. However, only the portion of the costs associated with installing the active solar shingles will qualify for most incentives

    The costs of installing a Tesla Powerwall battery with your solar roof will also qualify for the federal tax credit, if you choose to install one.

    For example, if a solar roof installation cost $40,000 total, with $10,000 of the total cost associated with the part of the roof that generates solar, the federal tax credit would be applied only to the $10,000 solar portion of the costs. 

    See which solar incentives, rebates, and credits you are eligible for

    4. How will the Tesla solar roof perform on my home?

    Tesla’s solar shingles should work just fine on your roof, and you can expect Tesla to be able to design a system that offsets your entire electric bill. 

    However, Tesla doesn’t list any specific performance metrics for their solar shingles on their website, so it can be a little difficult to tell exactly how much power they will generate for you

    Tesla estimates you would need a 6.14 kilowatt (kW) solar roof system to completely cover a monthly electric bill of $150 in southern California. That’s about 772 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity being generated by the roof. 

    It's important to note that conventional solar panels can produce more electricity than a Tesla solar roof because of the way the solar shingles need to be oriented on your roof: they lay flat, instead of at an angle like traditional solar panels. If you installed regular panels instead, you would only need about 5 kW of solar to produce the same amount of electricity as the 6.14 kW solar roof. 

    5. How long does a Tesla solar roof last?

    It’s safe to assume that the Tesla solar roof will last at least 25 years. The solar roof comes with three separate 25-year warranties:

    • Product Warranty
    • Weatherization Warranty
    • Module Warranty

    You can read the specifics of the warranties here

    Because of the length of these warranties, the testing Tesla conducted on the shingles must have led them to believe that their product will hold up for at least that long. Tesla’s solar shingles also have great hail and fire resistance ratings. In fact, the hail rating indicates that they could hold up better than traditional solar panels can in the event of a hailstorm.

    However, it seems regular solar panels have better resistance to wind than the solar roof.

    6. Does the Tesla solar roof require any regular maintenance?

    Yes, Tesla does recommend routine maintenance for the solar roof. 

    According to the Tesla Solar Roof Owner’s Manual, the roof should be cleaned to remove any debris or dirt that may accumulate on the tiles so they can continue to produce as much solar electricity as possible. 

    The manual doesn’t specify how often cleaning should be done, but if it’s anything like regular solar panels, once a year should suffice. More maintenance may be needed if you live in an area that experiences frequent storms or wildfires that produce substantial debris. 

    Tesla recommends hiring a professional cleaning service for the solar roof. However, if you choose to clean the system yourself, do not use any detergents or solvents, and be sure to rinse with a standard garden hose, with the water flowing down your roof. 

    tesla solar roof maintenance

    7. How long does a Tesla solar roof installation take? Is there a wait time?

    The actual physical installation of the Tesla solar roof will take somewhere between five and seven days

    However, it will take additional time to obtain the necessary permits, inspections, assessments, and utility approval. Usually, these things will take between three and four weeks to complete. 

    Tesla is also known for having pretty substantial wait times for their products. In fact, some people have reported additional wait times of five months for their solar roof, while others haven’t had to wait at all. 

    It seems to come down to whether or not there are available solar roof installers in your area, and what the demand is like. 

    8. Is the Tesla solar roof available in all 50 states?

    No, the solar roof is not available directly through Tesla in all 50 states, and there is no clear service territory listed on their website. However, Tesla has started working with partner installers to make the solar roof more widely available. 

    If your area is serviced by one of Tesla’s solar roof partner installers, you’ll see an alert like this one when ordering. Image source: Tesla

    Tesla will alert you if your area is serviced by a certified installer. If Tesla does not service your area, you may have to pay more for an installation. 

    9. Is the Tesla solar roof worth it?

    For most homeowners, the Tesla solar roof is not worth it unless you need a new roof, want solar, are very concerned with the aesthetic of your roof, and want to put up with Tesla’s famously subpar customer service. You can read more about why we’re hesitant to recommend it in our complete review of the Tesla solar roof

    Conventional solar panels, on the other hand, are almost always a worthwhile investment. Solar panels produce more energy than the solar roof can, and you can go with a trusted, local solar installer instead of a big corporation that hasn’t historically cared about their customers’ individual needs. 

    See what local solar companies are charging for installations in your area
     - Author of Solar Reviews

    Catherine Lane

    SolarReviews Blog Author

    Catherine is a researcher and content specialist at SolarReviews. She has strong interests in issues related to climate and sustainability which led her to pursue a degree in environmental science at Ramapo College of New Jersey.

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